The SEC may be packing up their media day extravaganza and moving from Alabama to Atlanta, but this year’s media day schedule shows the SEC will still carefully roll out plenty of storylines over the course of a four-day love fest for the conference.
The SEC is setting up shop at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, which feels like a great landing spot for the new media day fun for the SEC. The conference has established Atlanta as a destination point for the end of the regular season and the city just played host to the first College Football Playoff national championship game between two teams from the same conference, the SEC (Alabama and Georgia). So why not kickstart a new football season with the media in Atlanta too?
New Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher will be the headline act for the first of the four media days for the SEC. Fisher will make his SEC Media Days debut as head coach of the Aggies on Monday, July 16. Other coaches speaking that day will be LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops. Day 2 will be an interesting one with Georgia’s Kirby Smart in the spotlight coming off the SEC championship last fall and new Florida head coach Dan Mullen addresses the media for the first time as the Gators coach, although the former Mississippi State head coach is no stranger to the SEC media day circuit by now. Day 2 will also be the first SEC Media Day introduction for new Arkansas head coach Chad Morris and second-year Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke (Luke took over as head coach in Oxford after SEC Media Days last summer following the removal of Hugh Freeze not long after media days).
But when is Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaking, you ask? Day 3 (Wed., July 18 for those keeping track). Saban headlines the third day of the media day event for the SEC. Two other coaches speaking that day will be new head coaches in the SEC with former Saban assistant Jeremy Pruitt representing Tennessee and Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State stepping to the SEC podium for the first time. Missouri’s Barry Odom is also scheduled on day three. Day 4 will feature Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp, and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason.
Player representatives for each school in addition to any other speakers will be announced at a later time.
File this one under stories that should have been expected from a mile away. The football staff at Georgia, following up on an SEC title and appearance in the College Football Playoff national championship game, are getting bumps in pay. As a whole, the assistant coaching staff under head coach Kirby Smart will be paid roughly $2 million more than the staff received a year ago, according to a report from Seth Emerson of Dawg Nation.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will see the biggest pay raise with of $900,000 to bump his total pay up to $1.5 million. That would make him one of the top assistant coaches in assistant coaching salaries. Based off last year’s USA Today salary database, Tucker would be the fifth highest-paid assistant coach, and that may even be higher now given some of the offseason changes in the assistant coaching pool. Last year, four assistant coaches received a total pay of at least $1.5 million, and three of them were in the SEC (LSU’s Dave Arranda and Matt Canada, and Texas A&M’s John Chavis; Clemson’s Brent Venables was the outlier).
Keeping in line with another growing trend when it comes to power conference programs and how much money is budgeted for the football staff, Georgia will give strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Sinclair a $150,000 raise from his previous contract of $300,000.
What has not been finalized, publicly at least, is what the future holds for the contract of Smart. After a wildly successful season, Smart is expected to receive a raise as well as Georgia continues to build something special under his leadership after just two seasons. Smart was paid a base salary of $3.75 million last year, according to USA Today’s salary database, which made him the 9th highest-paid coach in the SEC in 2017. That is fair, considering Smart was a first-time head coach and other coaches in the conference had more head coaching experience, but Smart has quickly proven himself among his peers in the conference and is likely to move up the SEC coaching salary ranking quite quickly. Nick Saban (Alabama) and now Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) may still be on another playing field in terms of salary, but Smart should manage to move up closer to the high-end of the SEC salary spectrum.
Scott Frost will have to make room for a little more hardware as he moves to Nebraska. On Monday, the Associated Press named Frost its coach of the year for the 2017 season.
Frost received 21 first-place votes and 100 total points in the voting consisting of 57 voters in the AP Top 25. Frost beat out Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney for the award following an undefeated 12-0 season at UCF that ended with an AAC championship and a berth in the Peach Bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. Despite already being hired to be the head coach at Nebraska and UCF hiring a new head coach, Frost has stayed committed to coaching the Knights in the bowl game even if it makes for some long days flying between Lincoln and Orlando as he pulls double duty.
Frost turned UCF football around in short order. After inheriting a team that had gone 0-12 just prior to his arrival, Frost reinvigorated the mindset of the program and led UCF to a 6-7 season in his debut as UCF head coach in 2016. To follow that up in 2017, Frost led UCF to an undefeated season and conference championship to help return the program to a big bowl game for the first time since facing Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl with Blake Bortles at quarterback.
Frost already collected a few coach of the year honors with the Eddie Robinson Award from the Football Writers Association of America and the Home Depot Coach of the Year award.
As if celebrating a win in South Bend was not enough for Georgia, kicker Rodrigo Blankenship had one more reason to celebrate with the Bulldogs Saturday night. As Georgia head coach Kirby Smart addressed the team in the locker room after Georgia’s 20-19 victory over Notre Dame, Smart turned the attention to Blankenship for the big reveal.
Blankenship was placed on scholarship by Georgia on Friday, but Smart played this one well by holding off until after the game to reveal the news to the rest of the team. One wonders how the announcement would have been made if Georgia had lost. Being able to make the announcement following a win made a joyous moment even more cherished by the Georgia program.
Blankenship converted two of three field goal tries against the Irish and has made three of four tries this season. Last season, Blankenship successfully kicked 14 of his 18 field goal attempts for three points.
After being removed from a season-opening game win against Appalachian State on Saturday, Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason will sit out of the Bulldog’s Week 2 matchup at Notre Dame. Freshman Jake Fromm will continue to fill in for Eason and will get his first collegiate start this weekend in South Bend.
Eason has been diagnosed with a sprained ligament in his left knee, but will not need to have surgery, according to head coach Kirby Smart.
Eason was hit out of bounds by an Appalachian State defender in the first quarter of Saturday’s season opener in Athens. The play resulted in a late hit out of bounds penalty on the Mountaineers, but the penalty seemed to really be against the Bulldogs with their star quarterback trying to stay in the game only to fall to the ground and require medical attention before being taken out of the game for good.
Fromm performed well in his emergency relief for Georgia, completing 10-of-15 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown on a day that saw Georgia’s running game lead the way to a 31-10 victory. Now, From will be the starter for the Georgia Bulldogs and his first start will come inside Notre Dame Stadium. Georgia’s running game should continue to be the focus of the offense anyway, but how Fromm handles playing in this environment will be something to watch as Georgia looks to go 2-0.
It is unknown how long Eason will be unavailable, and for how long Fromm will remain the starter. Fromm may be in a position to keep the job even if Eason is later medically cleared to play for the Bulldogs, but if Georgia struggles in Eason’s absence, then Fromm may turn the job back over to a healthy Eason if and when that time comes.